All even against the Grasshoppers
Merlins 3 V 3 Tunbridge Well Grasshoppers
A grey, dank, wet and generally miserable day seemed to be a suitable backdrop to the Merlins situation at Braywick on Saturday. Having agreed to supply both umpires as Grasshoppers were unable to bring their regular umpire the Merlins were looking for a minimum of thirteen personnel to attend. On field skipper David “DV” Vincent is rapidly learning not to bother planning formations or tactics until a minute before the push back. Revisions to the playing numbers during the week were more frequent and variable than the National Audit Offices restatement of GDP figures !
In the event Grasshoppers arrived with twelve and the Merlins with an embarrassing ten, which included Monarchs skipper Viren Walia who had stepped in at the last moment. Even more frustrating was the fact that Viren indicated that the Monarchs had spare players that week who could have played had they been told of the situation in time.
Despite the Carillion like club management the Merlins proved rather more Churchillian in their approach. “DV” took on the role of sole umpire, fortunately supported by lots of fair play from both sides, and Grasshoppers loaned a player allowing the game to commence
with a 10 v 11 format. This was soon to become 9 v 11 as young Finlay Bainbridge pulled a hamstring after some skilful manoeuvres in restricted space.
With plenty of space the play was fast and open with the Merlins not surprisingly having to make several last ditch defensive efforts. Ronnie “The Cat” Fuller was soon in action palming a goal bound shot away from the danger area. A series of quick passes out of the
circle and twenty five yard area (it’s a vets game!) saw David “Heartburn” Rennie use his pace to good effect. Leaving startled Grasshoppers in his wake he entered the opposition circle and struck a clean shot past their ‘keeper. Stunned by this unexpected turn of events the Grasshoppers returned to the fray and not long afterwards levelled the score with a strike looping over “The Cat” and into the corner of the goal.
The start of the second half was even more surreal. With a two man advantage the Grasshoppers somehow managed to miss David “Heartburn” Rennie lurking inside the circle and with his shooting radar working overtime he scored the Merlins second – and very
quickly the third. By now the Grasshoppers were discussing their tactics of using the long ball in preference to the Merlins short passes to players running into space, a novel idea the Merlins have been experimenting with over the last three weeks (or ten years?, Ed)– who
said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks !?. However with twenty five minutes left to play the two man advantage began to tell as the Grasshoppers clawed their way back into the game with a breakaway goal and a short corner that nearly evaded everyone and just about
squeezed over the goal line.
In between the goal scoring activities, the midfield four of George “Braveheart” Wallace, Mahdi Hosany, David “Heartburn” Rennie, and centred principally around Viren Walia, really controlled much of the game and, as importantly, managed to keep up a high work rate. Bruce McArthur up front caused the Grasshoppers defence lots of anxious moments with his predatory shooting at goal while at the back Colin Byrne and Hans “Free” Kopplemann coped admirably with the flawed Grasshoppers long ball tactics.
With the scores level an injury to Viren Walia ran the clock down to the final whistle. Thanks go to the Merlins spectators (both of them) for verbal and medical support. The sides then gratefully retired to Bray for hot showers, excellent teas and beer with the Merlins trying to make amends for the shambolic selection processes. Man of the Match went to David “Heartburn” Rennie for a fine hat trick (supported with a suitable contribution to the beer kitty).